Deep Sky Projects

On September 19, 2011, in Culture, by psu

Astronomy is an endeavor that is full of catalogs. And I don’t mean the ones that are on the Internet that are designed to separate you from your hard earned cash. For much of its history, astronomers did little else than catalog what was in the sky. Before the telescope, this meant just what you could see with your eyeballs: the brighter stars, the planets, the moon, sun, and their various activities and relationships. With the advent of the telescope, more larger and more elaborate lists of esoteric objects could be created. The most famous of these was the one created by the French astronomer Charles Messier.

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  Blue Streak

On September 11, 2011, in Culture, by psu

The bike computer that came with the new blue bike in July is reading 385 miles. For some perspective, in the last few years, I doubt I’ve ever had a six month season go by where I rode much more than 400 miles. The six months that I had the Surly, according to the computer on that bike, I rode the thing 322 miles. It’s possible that I have an extra (say) 50 or 60 on that bike because the computer could have been broken or not installed. But the blue bike has still gone further in 6 weeks than I usually go in six months. Every time I ride I wonder why it’s so much better.

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  My Secret Hideout

On September 6, 2011, in Games, by peterb

“My secret hideout is a row of intricately ornamented domes hung through a willow copse. A row of beams, engraved with the figures of dancing birds, opens to an uneven core room which is filled with the scent of growing things.

Below that is the place where I write; it is decorated here and there with tiny relief carvings, and yellow light radiates from hidden skylights. My desk is in back.

An observatory is to the right. It’s a compact platform, open to the stars, and furnished with a reclining seat and an array of refractors. I’ve left stacks of hand-written notes and charts here and there. A gear-ridden orrery rests on a stand, in memory of simpler models of the universe.

Behind that is a room filled with tall carved bookshelves. Rows of textbooks on sociology and faded maps lean against terse Norse novels. The scent of ink and paper permeates the place.”

My Secret Hideout is the first iPad game by my longtime friend and acquaintance Andrew Plotkin, a.k.a. Zarf. I can’t even pretend to be objective about this – in this case, my loyalty to my friend outweighs any objectivity I might have. So I won’t try. Buy it. For $2.99, you get a neat little amusement that will generate endless descriptions of a mysterious fantasy hideout.

One of the mysteries, for me, is trying to figure out how the various inputs I can make will influence the story. Why are there six kinda of leaves? What do they do? How does combining them change the hideout? I haven’t figured any of this out yet, but I am enjoying the attempt.

It’s not a game. There are no “victory conditions” – you don’t win or lose this, you just mutate the tree and enjoy reading the results. I am glad that there’s a place in the world for things like this.

My Secret Hideout is available for iPad at the iTunes store.



Here is an expanded version of an idea I have posted before. It’s the perfect summer fish dish and there is almost no way in which I can imagine someone messing it up.

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  Tens of Dollars

On August 17, 2011, in Culture, by psu

A guy at the office and I have a running joke about the amateur astronomy business. I will opine that the market is just begging for some great product to solve problem X for every telescope user in the world. And then we both snicker that one could make tens of dollars by building and offering such a product for sale. This is a marketplace where selling thousands of units a year makes you a massive player. It’s a market that is in a permanent niche.

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  Some Food Shorts

On July 31, 2011, in Food and Drink, by psu

Haven’t done a short snippet food roundup post in a while. So here we go.

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  Consumer: Know Thyself

On July 24, 2011, in Culture, by psu

I bought a new bicycle yesterday. “But wait! You just bought a bike last year!”, you might be thinking. You probably are not thinking that since you’d have to be an obsessive reader of this web site to remember. But it might happen. Yes, I bought a bike last year. On paper it was the perfect bike for me. Steel frame: check. Nice blend of road bike speed with utilitarian versatility: check. Able to attach bags and fenders and such for longer trips: check. Great brand name for me (Surly): check. Reasonably comfortable yet efficient riding position: check. Well, I hated it.

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  Let Them Eat Cake

On July 13, 2011, in Food and Drink, by psu

Several people who know me felt the need to point out that Dozen Bake Shop closed their doors last week. I guess since I have written mean things about Dozen they expected me to gloat or something. But while I will talk trash about anyone, I generally don’t take pleasure in someone else’s loss. Well, except for the Lakers and the Yankees. Those guys can kiss my ass.

Anyway, with Dozen gone, you might be asking yourself, “where should I go for cake?” Four places.

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Back in part 2 I promised a short piece on all the other fussy details related to using the Mallincam. Instead I got into an extended tangent on the subject of telescope mounts, focal length and image scale and various other things. The final missing piece is what you actually do to see the pictures. After some experimentation, I have a scheme I’m comfortable with.

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As spring has turned into summer we are up against our last few chances to look at the really faint fuzzies in the spring sky. I refer of course to the mega-clusters of galaxies in Virgo and Coma Berenices. This week in Pittsburgh has been miraculously clear from summer haze, and my telescope mount has been miraculously clear from strange mechanical hiccups, which means I have spent a last few quality hours with the galaxies this week.

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